- It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It would have made a fine alternate title for Syro, Richard D. James's mind-melting, hyper-distinctive return as Aphex Twin from last year. Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, another Omar-S album title, works well for James's latest, the Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP. Few artists could claim creative carte blanche on the level James can, especially after an album that showed he's still in his prime long after his first run of classics. And here he claims the hell out of it, turning in a moody set that sounds a bit like either Tom Waits instrumentals, a gamelan ensemble going pop, or maybe just some bits from Syro played back at a fraction of their original speed.
Where Syro played up James's virtuosity as an arranger, composer and programmer, Acoustic Instruments emphasizes atmosphere—a crucial component of Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Of particular interest is what happens when acoustic instruments are played in a room—the reverb tails, the quirky resonances—and the telling hiss of the machine that's capturing them. The textures are certainly sumptuous, and occasionally they lend the record something unique. That's the case on "diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13," which sets a Syro-style madcap arrangement to a tense shuffle. We hear every instrument's creak and crunch, but no matter how many piano notes and drum hits James throws at us, the track still grooves.
"disk prep calrec2 barn dance [slo]" sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, focusing on squeezing as many tones from as many bang-able surfaces as possible. James spends most of the EP in that exploratory mode, and though there's a certain pleasure in listening to an artist figure things out, a full 28 minutes feels like overkill. Regardless, it's comforting to know James isn't settling into a routine.
A1 diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13
A4 piano un1 arpej
A6 hat 2b 2012b
A7 disk aud1_12
A8 0035 1-Audio
B1 disk prep calrec2 barn dance [slo]
B4 piano un10 it happened
B5 hat5c 0001 rec-4